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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Science Note: Recycler Robot

Air Date: Week of

Human workers who dig through waste from demolition and construction projects in search of recyclable materials work in peril. Now, researchers are developing a robot that can sort through waste and lift the burden off of humans. Living on Earth's Sean Faulk reports.Photo: One unit of the ZenRobotics Recycler. (ZenRobotics Ltd.)


GELLERMAN: Coming up, a dam removal project that doesn’t generate controversy. But first, this note on emerging science from Sean Faulk:


FAULK: Industrial machines like the lovable movie-animated robot Wall-E are not just figments of science fiction. Researchers now are developing a robot that can sort recycling without the help of human hands.


FAULK: The Recycler Robot is under development at ZenRobotics, a high-tech company in Finland that specializes in artificial intelligence and robotic recycling. The robot is engineered to sort waste from construction and demolition sites, but it doesn’t roam the junkyard on wheels and sift through rubble, like Wall-E. It’s a stationary system with a conveyor belt, a suite of sensors, and several robotic arms hanging from above that pluck away at the waste stream. The arms sort out plastics, wood, concrete, electronics, and also remove dangerous contaminants, such as radioactive materials.

The robot has the edge over human workers who must shovel through the waste themselves. It’s more efficient and more durable, capable of 24/7 operation and needs little maintenance. But most of all, it would relieve the occupational hazards from toxic substances and sharp or heavy objects that threaten human sorters everyday. So roll over Wall-E, there’s a new robot coming to town. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Sean Faulk.




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